November 6, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 37

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HSC physical therapist provides care in India


Allied Health

Physical therapist-educator Tom Turturro of the School of Allied Health Sciences recently shared his expertise with colleagues and patients in a remote part of northeastern India. He traveled to the politically volatile Manipur province, which borders Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China, as part of a medical missionary ministry he undertook.

Turturro, M.Div., P.T., OCS, ACCE, spoke at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal, India, and offered health camps with three native physicians. "We screened individuals for a variety of problems including high blood pressure and musculoskeletal complaints," he said. "We encountered several children with polio, which is still occurring in the region. Just as in our country, low back pain and neck pain are major complaints of many patients."

Turturro, who in 1997 passed the rigorous certification exam to become an orthopaedic clinical specialist, met with orthopaedic surgeons, physiatrists, physical therapists and occupational therapists. He discussed "Updates on Physical Therapy Orthopaedic Practice in the U.S.A."


Tom Turturro, Department of Physical Therapy, evaluates a patient in a church in a remote part of India, the town of Imphal.

His many research interests include treatment of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and anterior cruciate ligament tears, rehabilitation and preseason programs for female soccer players, and rehabilitation outcomes for patients who undergo shoulder impingement or rotator cuff repair.

"Physicians at the government medical school in Imphal are performing some high-level procedures, such as leg lengthening and tendon transfers," he said, "but in the hospital many patients with back or neck pain are placed on bed rest and put into traction, which is something we never do today. In addition, the use of orthotics and prosthetics to help other patients is quite behind in the region."

Many youth in the area have joined an "insurgence" that is fighting for independence from India, according to the article "Focus on Northeast India" by K.S. Sebastian. He wrote: "In Manipur, it is said that some doctors have to pay 25 percent of their income to the insurgents."

One result is that hospitals and clinics face severe staffing shortages. "I saw many troops in Imphal," Turturro noted. "This is a remote part of India where you must have a special permit to go. It is a troubled area."

Few foreign health care professionals journey to Manipur and neighboring states these days. In fact, one hospital, Satribari Christian Hospital, has not had an American missionary doctor since 1984, Sebastian wrote. Major problems include malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery and drug abuse.

Despite the brewing political situation, Turturro found the people he encountered to be humble and very respectful of health professionals. During one clinic session, 300 patients were evaluated and 30 required a physical therapistís evaluation and treatment. Turturro even attended to patients following a church service.

Turturro expressed gratitude to the School of Allied Health Sciences and the Department of Physical Therapy for allowing him to take administrative leave for the medical portions of his trip. He also spoke at the William Carey Bible College and Church in Calcutta.